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City Council approves rate increase for solid waste contract

Hastings City Hall. File photo

The Hastings City Council approved a raise to the 2018 residential solid waste contract rates at the council meeting Feb. 5. The rates will go into effect April 1 at the beginning of the second quarter of 2018.

Tennis Sanitation renewed their contract with the city in 2015. Soon after, the company learned that the dumping fee at the facility would be increased. Tennis said they decided to absorb the added cost because they had just signed the three-year extension about a month before finding out the rate would increase.

When Tennis learned there would be yet another increase, which he called "astronomical" at the council meeting, they decided to reach out to the city.

"Even with this raise, the city, the residents of Hastings are still getting a fairly decent price," he said.

Tennis said the company is trying to be fair so they only raised the cost enough to cover the dumping cost. He said they are not trying to make profit on the raise.

The City of Hastings first entered into a contract with Tennis Sanitation in 2012 for residential solid waste collection. The terms were for 2013-2015 and the council granted a three-year extension through the end of 2018.

In 2016, the solid waste facility in Newport, where all the waste from Hastings residents is delivered, was purchased by Washington and Ramsey Counties. It is now called the Recycling and Energy Center. The new ownership and name change came along with additional changes that Tennis Sanitation was unaware of at the time of their contract with the City of Hastings.

The R&E Board used to charge haulers $58 per ton of waste brought in to the facility in Newport. It was increased to $70 per ton in 2017 and the fee was raised again in 2018 to $94 per ton. Without a rate increase to residents, Tennis Sanitation would be more than $93,000 in the hole.

The rate increase proposal was discussed at a Jan. 9 utilities committee meeting consisting of council members Joe Balsanek, Lori Braucks and Trevor Lund. The meeting minutes indicated that the council members were sympathetic to the price increases experienced by Tennis as a result of the changes at the disposal facility.

Balsanek said he thinks the change in rates was callous on the part of Ramsey and Washington counties.

"They knew they were putting Dakota County residents into a position that would require their haulers to eventually raise their rates," he said. "The rate increases are exorbitant and discriminatory."

Balsanek said a fix for the situation will take some time. He would have liked to see a transition agreement between the three counties rather than the abrupt increase in fees.

"I would have expected our neighboring counties to be more neighborly," Balsanek said.

Braucks said waste processing will likely be a point of discussion with Dakota County commissioners. In the meantime, she said Tennis will need to find a solution.

"It is unfortunate that (Washington County's) energy policies are negatively affecting a local business' ability to perform their contractual obligations to their customers," she said.

According to Victoria Reinhardt, Ramsey County commissioner and chairperson of the R&E Board, the changes should not have been a big surprise. Ramsey and Washington Counties completed a waste designation process so that all acceptable waste generated in the counties would be delivered to the R&E Center.

With waste from both counties being designated to the center, there is not enough capacity for waste out of county. The R&E Board has allowed Dakota County waste to be brought to the facility during 2018, but in 2019 it will no longer be accepted. The rate was increased for 2018 because with the capacity full at the facility, the waste from Dakota County is transferred to another facility once it is dropped off. The rate increase pays for the transportation from the R&E Center to the facility with capacity.

Reinhardt said the facility is subsidized by residents in Ramsey and Washington Counties so it wouldn't make sense for those residents to pay for waste brought in from Dakota County.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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